Ginger Duchi


Sam Smith Thrills Charlotte Once Again

Photo by: Pooja Pasupula

Sam Smith returned to the Spectrum Center on Friday, July 6 for the 42nd show of his “The Thrill of It All” World Tour, his second time in Charlotte. I always forget how massive the Spectrum Center is. When Smith asked the audience to turn on the flashlights of their phones for his favorite portion of the set, I could see why it’s the singers favorite. With the help of the phones, the stadium transformed into a pseudo-starry night.

The English artist entered the stage seated on a chair reminiscent of his “In the Lonely Hour,” opening the set with “Burning.” This is the second time I’ve seen Sam Smith perform, having caught his 2015 “In The Lonely Hour” Tour. Three years later, I am still completely in awe of his raw talent.

It is absolutely no surprise that Sam’s music can be depressing and it’s perfect for a fresh breakup. This is something Sam himself stated at the top of the show, noting that at the time in which “The Thrill of It All” was written he “realized that my music’s very depressing. And I was very, very nervous… ‘cause I don’t want you to leave this room tonight feeling sad and like sh-t. So we have tried our very best in the show to make sure you all leave this arena tonight feeling happy and feeling good.” I can completely attest that the entire team succeeded.

Although the nature of the songs are somber and can remind you of a past relationship, the tour itself was entirely different. Usually-depressive songs have a soulful sway to them when Sam sings them live. The wonderful thing about Sam was his nature to not take the set seriously. After a dramatic rendition of “Writing’s on the Wall” Sam joked “that was f—king dramatic” following a cello (Harry Robinson) and keys (Rubin James) interlude.

Looking at the stage, everyone looked excited to be there. Every performer was entertaining to watch, so even if you did not have the best view of Sam you were still entertained and saw performers who were having a total blast. The band sang and danced with one another during “Restart,” clearly needing no one else to have fun.

I usually make a distinction in my reviews of performer versus artist. Like the whole square vs. rectangle thing, not all artists are performers and the same vice versa. Sam Smith is one of the artists that you do not need to have a first-row seat to in order to feel the power of his performance. You will move, sway, sing-along and be transported with the performance of the night. Even from far away, you will have a great view of the absolutely beautiful camera shots taken, each with a beautifully seamless transition.

The setlist included both of Sam’s albums with a great balance of 2014 “In The Lonely Hour” hits and the newest 2017 The Thrill of It All” bops. No matter how much the songs had changed to be upbeat and a (no pun intended) thrill, the singer hit every mark.

Sam left the same way he entered, returning to his “In The Lonely Hour” position with the crowd roaring with thanks for the memorable night.

Photo by: Pooja Pasupula

Mesmerizing Compassion with Paramore’s Tour Two

Photos by Pooja Pasupula .

I’ve always made a distinction between artists: there are singers, and there are performers. Like the whole “not every rectangle is a square” line, not every performer is a singer. Going into the Ovens Auditorium, I expected Paramore to be performers: give you a good show, a lot of jumping and screaming, but lacking vocally. I set the bar way too low. I assumed that Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams would jump around on stage, rock out a bit; maybe there would be a song or two from the old albums, but I couldn’t imagine the synthesis of both new and old sound, especially after listening to the vast difference between “RIOT!” (2007) and “After Laughter” (2017). “RIOT!” was what came to mind when I thought of Paramore: big, loud and pop punk galore. “After Laughter” is on a completely different playing field; still big and loud, but now upbeat and new wave power punk.

What I experienced was much better than anything I could have ever imagined. Hayley Williams was even more energetic and charismatic than what I could have thought. Paramore brought a perfect blend of their new and old music, honoring the fans that had been around for a few years while still giving “After Laughter” fans an unparalleled show, highlighting their new music with bright energetic video projections. As for energy, it was so apparent that the band loved what they were doing, and although it had been over a decade since the band’s formation it wasn’t reflected in Williams’ energy. She leaped, kicked and incorporated audience members without any falter in her voice.

The audience was composed of fans who had followed the band from the beginning and were now bringing their own children to see the band that had altered their life. The older fans were surrounded by teenage versions of themselves that look up to William’s energetic compassion, teaching them to view the world through a radically different lens. There was a young fan seated in front of me, I’m assuming she was around 13 or 15, accompanied by her mother and father. She was blessed that the three surrounding seats next to her were open. She danced and sang along with every song, lifting her hands and giving her own performance. What was beautiful about her was that you could visibly see how much Paramore meant to her, how the words in “Hate to See Your Heart Break” and “26” impacted her, and tears streamed down her face. Standing next to her was her father. As the night progressed it was increasingly apparent to him why his daughter loved the band so much; slowly his hands went from being sternly crossed in front of him to dropping to his side and swaying to the music, all of which was captured by a grinning mother.

The night started and ended with a message of compassion. Opening artist Best Coast’s lead singer Bethany Cosentino left the stage with a message, “Be kind and loving and not hateful.” This is a message that would later be mirrored by Williams, “Your choices matter. The way you treat people and empathy matters.” Williams brought a hopeful outlook to a country facing the aftermath of two hurricanes, which actually caused the bands to postpone a few of the Tour Two dates.

Leaving the Ovens Auditorium I was buzzing, Paramore had completely proven me wrong; they were so much more than just a band, but genuine artists that cared about their fans and the city that they had resided in for the past four days. Williams thanked the city, giving shoutouts to the Trader Joe’s employee that recommended a drink to her, gushing about the beautiful city that Charlotte was and showing care as she wished everyone a safe journey home. Including the fans in her closing statements to the tour members that were on stage, she left a message that “the individuals coming together to form something much more important” was what formed Paramore.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘There Is A Cloud’ – Elevation Worship

‘There is a cloud’ album artwork courtesy of Elevation Church

Elevation Church takes pride in the fact that they write their own music; “There Is A Cloud” is a product of this effort. “There Is A Cloud” by Elevation Worship premiered March 17 at number 1 on iTunes. The hope of the church is for “There Is A Cloud” to encourage others. The songs are confessions; something Elevation does really well is finding the words to hit home.

Listening through the album, it doesn’t feel like church music. Alright, I take that back; yes you can tell it’s Christian music when you listen to the lyrics like “sing praise to our god/ for his and is worthy,” but when it’s over EDM, it definitely doesn’t feel like your stereotypical church music. It’s an album that’s easy to jam out to in a car as a quick pick me up. It’s easy to find yourself humming along to the songs hours after you’ve listened to them. Like most albums, you could listen to a song and get to a point in which you think “… might not be the one for me.” However, after a few more verses there is a line in which it feels like the worship team knew exactly what you were going though and just spoke to your soul. At the end of the day that’s what “There Is A Cloud” is: an album that speaks to the soul. It makes worship accessible, enjoyable and leaves you feeling better. It’s hard to still be angry after listening to a few songs.  

At the release party, Pastor Steven Furtick spoke about hearing God in the sheer silence, “Thunder and lighting is awesome, but what’s in the whisper?” Continuing, he asked, ” Are you receiving what God is releasing?” We often get stuck on what people have done to us, what happened in the past and what we need to do to get back to them. But what about what’s being extended to us?

Pastor Steven gave perspective with a video of a boy named Marky who has “butterfly skin,” a disease in which the skin is so fragile that any friction will cause the skin to blister and fall off. Although Marky lives in Wisconsin, he heard “Resurrecting” from Elevation’s 2016 album “Here is in Heaven” and has claimed the song as his own, saying ‘he would be resurrected, just like the song says, in his perfect body.’ Elevation is bringing hope to people hundreds of miles away through their music.

For those not familiar with Elevation Church, it is a local church based in Charlotte with 11 campuses in North Carolina, and 14 total, as well as multiple counties tuning in to the church’s online platforms.  

Geeking out with “She Kills Monsters”

Photo by Danny Tulledge.
Photo by Danny Tulledge.

“Monsters” follows the story of Agnes Evan’s “Dungeons and Dragons” quest to know her dead younger sister Tilly Evans. A model like Dark Elf, a sexy Demon Princess are a part of Tilly’s sick ass “D&D” squad which were dressed to a teenage boy’s wet dream. “Monster’s” had a lot of stage combat but because the cast was right on top of the audience, it meant that they had virtually no space to actually kick ass. For a cast with virtually no stage combat experience to sell action packed fight choreography merely 3 feet away would have been easier if it was staged on the Belk stage with the added distance allowing the cast to have a larger playing space. However, staging “Monsters” in the Black Box allowed interesting and intimate interactions between the cast and audience, from flirting to validation, both of which were hilarious and brought the audience in on the adventure.

“She Kills Monsters” had a fully sold out run, trying to get tickets to the show meant you had to move fast, if not you were waitlisted!

“Monsters” is the show about the underdog, flashing back and forth from Tilly’s old high school where the “D&D” players were dorks and the cheerleaders were the queens. Tilly, played by Addie Moore, was the creator of the “D&D” world that her sister Agnes, played by Myrti Tipton, ventures into. Agnes as the older sister was the one that never left home, taking the phrase “born and raised” literally, she is perfectly average with nothing exciting in her life, even her romantic life is less than exciting; after 5 years all her boyfriend offers is to move in.

The chemistry between Tipton and Moore is undeniable, from the fun side jabs to protecting one another, there was no doubt that there was a friendship there that would over last the run of the show. The romantic relationships portrayed in “Monsters” was interesting, the fact that Tilly was actually gay and was with the sexy Demon princess Lilith was a surprise as there was no build up to the romance and suddenly “we’re lovers,” mic drop, would have worked best if there was tension there. A slow burn that would have left the audience asking “are they…. Is she?” instead I felt incredibly underwhelmed. Overall the romantic relationships both between Tilly and Lilith and Agnes and Miles left something to be desired.

“Monsters’” cast was filled with bright new faces to Charlotte’s main stage, allowing new to the stage, along with some beloved old ones returning. The cast brought interesting character choices for the show. For this cast it was the minor characters that stole the show; junior Noah Tepper as Orcus could best be compared as an Adult version of the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin with hilarious one liners reminding us that he is the sass King. Sophomore Kyle Smith as the hilarious Dungeon Maste, the love of my life Karlon Artis as the greatest comedy relief and the other love of my life Raven Monroe as Agnes’s lifeline and treasure for the audience. Minor characters like Ferrah the Fairy (Briana Abbiat) brings out the underlying feminism reminding the cast and audience that “just because I’m pretty doesn’t mean I won’t fuck you the fuck up” and then fucking up Orcus for touching her.

Hats off to the Director & Costume Designer Allison (Aly) Amidei, Sound Designer Alex Gilland (senior theatre major) and Scenic & Lighting Designer Bruce Auerbach the show looked impeccable. From small details like Orcus’ makeup to larger details such as the great music that would overplay the fight scenes, it was a stimulating visual experience from start to finish.

Wale and D.R.A.M. Illuminate Homecoming

Photos by Chris Crews and Leysha Caraballo.

Watching D.R.A.M can easily be described as hanging out with your hippy uncle after a holiday party. He gives you flirting tips and gives quick pep talks, telling you to “shoot your shot” and “spread love” all while single-handedly hyping you up. D.R.A.M which stands for Does. Real. Ass. Music, has made it into the music industry scoring features on Chance the Rapper’s recent “Coloring Book,” reminding people that they are special with an easy to listen to and fast to love special. He is more commonly known from his 2015 hit “Cha Cha” and more recently “Broccoli.”

Although he doesn’t have a lot of music out there, he has a great following. While he performed, girls would scream “I LOVE YOU, I CAN TAKE CARE OF YOU!” serving as D.R.A.M’s personal hype crew. With a mind boggling vocal range creating beautiful harmonies it was the best way to take minds off midterms and let go for the night. To add to an explosion of a night, D.R.A.M jumped off stage to dance with the crowd, spinning girls and making the best part of a Snapchat story. Seriously I’m still getting messages about how lit the concert looked and they’re completely right.

With the crowd laughing and dancing, we eagerly waited for the feature artist, Wale. The wait gave Niners time to look around to the people standing with them, talk to the security staff and make new friends. Wale is a rapper from D.C., holding BET Hip Hop awards for Best Club Banger and Best Collaboration, along with numerous nominations, including a Grammy nomination for “Lotus Flower Bomb.” Although he had a hurt throat, he still came out to give a good show. Obviously adored, he was gifted letters, jackets and snapbacks which he appreciatively wore during his set. With admirable audience participation he jumped off the stage and ran up the stairs through the audience multiple times and when returning to the stage, making sure to sing to the sides of the stadium, which is really dope considering more artists will only pay attention to the mosh pit standing in front of them. Overall the concert was great, there’s something about the vibe you get at concerts with excitement and the camradery of knowing that you are surrounded by people who either love the same music you love or are here to have a great time. This will not be one to forget.

After the concert, D.R.A.M. took to Twitter praising and thanking UNCC, “#UNCC was lit, thanks for the love!”  The performance at UNC Charlotte was done in anticipation of D.R.A.M.’s new album, “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” due out this Friday, Oct. 21, rounding out his already incredible debut year.  He is currently on his U.S. headlining tour, the “Spread Love Tour,” which lasts until February of next year.  Meanwhile, Wale has been riding high ever since the release of his fourth album, “The Album About Nothing” in March 2015.  He is also set to release a new album, “Shine,” later this year.